Sex Abuse Suit Against Delaware County Sheriff Settled
Delaware County Commissioners Wednesday approved a $13.5 million dollar settlement of a sexual abuse case filed against the county sheriff.
JAY – A lawsuit claiming that female prisoners in the Delaware County Jail suffered sexual abuse at the hands of sheriff’s department employees has now been settled.
County Commissioners Wednesday morning approved a $13.5 million dollar settlement during a special meeting in the Delaware County Courthouse. The settlement figure was arrived at during a court-ordered settlement hearing presided over by Magistrate Claire Eagan, which began on Monday in federal court.
Commission Chairman Doug Smith was visibly upset during Wednesday’s meeting, calling the settlement negotiations, “emotional, at times heated, and gut-wrenching.” At one point he broke down, stating, “We handled this as well as we could, keeping in mind our citizens and taxpayers.”
Commissioners were unsure Wednesday morning as to how the county will pay the settlement amount, saying that they are currently negotiating with the county’s insurance company, but Commissioner Smith was not confident that those negotiations will alleviate liability for the taxpayers. “The county may potentially be liable for all of it,” said Smith, who further said that the money will have to come from a property tax hike beginning on January 1, 2013, in a worst case scenario.
The lawsuit was filed in 2009 by a group of women who had all been incarcerated in the Delaware County Jail during the same two week period from June 25 to July 7, 2007. It alleged that a sheriff’s deputy, who died before the suit was filed, performed sexual acts on the women against their will and that the sheriff of Delaware County was responsible in his official capacity for that deputy’s actions. Later, the original complaint was amended to add allegations against other Delaware County Sheriff’s Office employees. During the course of the lawsuit plaintiffs were also added and some withdrew. At one point there were 17 women claiming sexual battery. The money, after court costs and expenses and after the five plaintiff attorneys have been paid, will be divided among the 15 remaining plaintiffs.
The commissioners said Wednesday that they were unable to provide comment on disciplinary actions and/or changes in policies and procedures within the sheriff’s department in the wake of the lawsuit.
“We would like to apologize to anybody who was harmed,” said an emotional Smith.